A small group of students braved an early Saturday morning start and met at AWOL Studios to drive the 1 hour journey across the Pennines to Yorkshire. We were joined at lunch time by a couple more who valued a more gentle start to their weekend.
With warm sunny skies, a gentle breeze and enough clouds to create a stunning painted watercolour sky we started exploring the YSP walking past Andy Goldsworthy’s Sheep fold and up to Horbelt’s ‘Winter’ folly or lookout shelter, via David Nash’s ‘Seventy One Steps’. We also passed Andy Goldsworthy’s ‘Hanging Trees’ encased in the dry stone walls which I just love.
The Longside Gallery housed an exhibition by Lucy and Jorge Orta. The first piece we saw was Water Goddess placed on a geometric plinth outside the gallery. A powerful female figure, doing a kind of mystical shamanic dance gave us an inkling of what their work is about. Their work explored the commoditisation of water, the human and environmental damage that is being wrought on the world and the fragile environmental balance that although vital for our continued existence, is being wilfully damaged. Although thought provoking and in consensus with most environmentally and politically aware people today, to me their work didn’t have the activist mentality that is probably more appropriate to making an exploration of this subject matter actually make a difference. More intellect than emotionally powerful.
Walked down over Cascade Bridge, doffed our caps to Anthony Gormley perched high up-top a tree stump overlooking his faithful art lovers as they walk by, and went to meet our lunch time arrivals. Enjoyed a relaxed picnic overlooking Henry Moore sculptures, the Deer Shelter Skyscape, across the Lower Lake to the hills beyond. Delicious home made brownies lifted our spirits and engery levels after all the walking and we now look forward to the results of the home baked jaffa cake challenege!
The afternoon was spent exploring the work of Yinka Shonibare MBE whose work filled the 3 indoor galleries. After visiting YSP’s annual shows for the last 5 years I was somewhat disappointed in their choice of artists this year. Previously the selected artists’ work has had a powerful impact on me and I have found their work emotionally charged and intellectually rigorous. This year I found both Orta’s and Yinka’s work, although valid subjects for art making, and well executed, somewhat over intellectualised and lacking in feeling and power. Yinka’s show ‘Fabric-ation’ included works from the past decade and explored issues around Colonialism, Victorian Britain’s aristocracy, the relationship between Empire and colonial Africa, citizenship and belonging, and works highlighting issues around global food production. His fabrics reminded me of my past life as a textile designer, but otherwise his work passed me by – although I did love his alien sculptures in their made flying machines. I found these artworks the most playful and humorous but their full message was only gleaned from reading the gallery interpretation boards. This always makes me query the validity of the artworks ability to really communicate with its audience. His trademark use of ‘African’ fabrics throughout all his work creates a link with Orta whose work still references her past life as a fashion designer with the use of colour swatches in their illustrations and use of textiles in their installations. Both artists have concerns with global environmental issues and access to finite resources of food and water.
The Bothy galleries saved the day housing work by Hans Josephsohn, with more outside along the promenade and in the gardens opposite the 3 indoor galleries. His works of bronze figurative sculptures were raw with power and emotion. The roughly hewn blocks required contemplation and a lengthy gaze to extract the suggestion of figures hidden within. Reminiscent of prehistoric, primitive sculpture his boldness in not needing to refine and impose layers of intellect was a refreshing change after seeing Ota’s and Yink’s exhibitions.
Annually I love the permanent works on display such as Sophie Ryder’s giant hares, Barbara Hepworth’s abstract yet figurative bronzes and the many others whose names I can’t remember. Although I see them year after year they always seem fresh and I find myself looking forward to seeing the different responses they provoke.
A couple of us chose to wait in the queue to see Roger Hiorns ‘Seizure’, although I got there too late. I was told it was a brilliant experience so am thankful it will be at the YSP for another 10 years. Something to look forward to next year.
By this time we were exhausted after having walked round for over 6 hours, the sun was still shining hotter than ever, and it was time to leave. A fantastic day out with wonderful company, lots of laughs balanced with a reasonable amount of art appreciation dosed with a healthy cynicism to keep contemporary conceptual art in its place, and hopefully enjoyed by everyone who came along.
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